seattle Detached Backyard Cottages

What if your backyard could help you pay your mortgage and make your neighborhood a more vibrant place?

As experts in small space design, Fivedot knows how to design small spaces that live large. 

Backyard cottages can bring families closer together, allow elderly residents to age in place, provide affordable housing in an increasingly expensive city and provide additional income to enable people to remain in their homes.

Let’s talk about your project

Whether you are building a DADU for family, for yourself,  or for rental income, Fivedot can help you navigate the complex design  and permitting process to build a beautiful cottage that complements your existing home and lifestyle.

Detached Backyard Cottage Projects

"Fivedot brings a depth of creativity and an easy-going professionalism to their work that makes them a pleasure to work with."

— Brad, Seattle, WA —

Our Approach

Initial Meeting

The relationship between client and designer is critical to ensure a successful project. Our design process is a collaborative effort between us and you. The first meeting allows us to get a look at the site or space and to see whether we are a good fit for you and the project. We will discuss expectations, timelines, likes and dislikes. Ideally we will come out of this meeting with a good idea of what you want to do and what is important to you. Based on the initial meeting, we will prepare a proposal that describes the design scope and our anticipated process along with time and fee estimates for each stage of the design.



Charette is a French term taken from architectural training at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in the 19th century.  In current practice, it means a design meeting where all interested parties come together for a collaborative work session. We use this type of meeting at the beginning of a DADU project to determine the basic requirements of the project. As DADU regulations are quite restrictive, we can usually come away from this meeting with a good idea of where the building should be and how it will relate to the main structure.


Schematic Design

This is the fun part. Based on your input, we will explore a range of options to satisfy the design program. We will look at massing, circulation, siting, views, light, ventilation etc. This stage starts with diagrammatic studies and progresses towards a basic set of plans that will set the design direction for the project. There is usually quite a bit of back and forth during this process. The idea is to come out of schematic design with a good idea of form, layout, size and appearance.


Design Development/Permitting

During design development the design gets refined. Materials get chosen, windows are detailed, casework is designed. This is where the drawings become much more detailed and precise, showing sizes, materials and how item A interacts with item B. Somewhat independently, we will create a set of drawings that can be submitted to the city for permit. Depending on the type of project, these can be relatively simple or incredibly complex. Given the long review times typically seen at building departments these days, we try to submit for permit during design development and continue to work on the construction documents as the project is under review. For smaller projects, design development can be the end of the design process.


Construction Documents

The construction documents phase is concerned with creating a comprehensive set of drawings that describe how the design created in previous phases gets put together. For competitive bid projects, a full and complete construction documents set is critical.


Construction Observation / Administration

We work closely with the contractor throughout the building process. Ideally the contractor is selected early in the design process but regardless, we work with the contractor during the construction process to answer questions and make revisions as necessary.


Can I build a backyard cottage on my lot?

The short although unsatisfying answer is ‘it depends’. There are rules relating to access, parking, lot size etc. that all effect whether or not you can build a DADU. With our experience with DADUs we can usually figure out the answer to this pretty quickly. Contact us to chat about your project.

Can I convert my garage to a DADU?

We have done a couple of garage conversions. If you have a well built garage and it happens to be in a good place (from the city’s point of view), then a garage conversion might be a good way to go.

How much will a DADU cost?

This is another ‘it depends’ answer. That said, we looked at this in a bit more detail in this blog post, "Backyard Cottage Costs".

Did the DADU rules recently change?

Yes. Thanks to the hard work of a some dedicated advocates, rules for the construction of DADU’s have become more permissive. The big deal changes are:

  • Change from a maximum size of 800 sqft to 1000 sqft.
  • No parking required for DADU’s.
  • Owner occupancy requirement removed.
  • Allows for a DADU and an ADU on the same lot.
  • Reduced the minimum lot size for DADU's.

There are other changes as well but these were the big ones.

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